Dozens of parents marched down Sunkist Street early this morning in front of Anaheim's Benito Juarez Elementary School. They were angered that current principal Roberto Baeza is being transferred out at the end of the year in a move made by Linda Wagner, the brand-spanking new Superintendent of the Anaheim City School District (ACSD). The parents carried protest signs and leaflets with a photo of Wagner crossed out saying “Shame on You” as they were mostly greeted by honking horns from cars passing by.
“I have seen the difference in the principals,” says Jesus Ramirez, a father of three, including a 6th grader at Juarez. “Dr. Baeza has been the best principal that this school has had. We need him to stay here.” Other parents echoed similar sentiments before a meeting with Wagner began at the school library.
“I have two children in the dual immersion program,” Julieta Olivares tells the Weekly in Spanish. “I believe it isn't just that Wagner made a decision so soon.”
Other parents carried similar sentiments into the library where the Superintendent was seated alongside other staff. “She didn't give us a single answer,” Alejandra Carrera tells me in Spanish of the supe's previous meeting last night. “She was solely just listening.” Another characterized the gathering's end as one in which Wagner essentially walked out on the protesting parents.
This time around, about forty-five people stood or were seated and expressed their concerns. A paper handed out to them solicited their opinion on what they would like to see in a new principal, but everyone who spoke, without exception, tried to explain that Baeza was already what they wanted. One woman in the back wiped away tears from her eyes as the meeting reached seemingly frustrating impasses at times. Another father suggested that Wagner, herself, be replaced.
Another parent aired concerns that there are plans to vastly expand the dual language immersion program at Juarez elementary, turning it into a “laboratory” of sorts for the district. “The current plan is to add second grade in the Fall,” Dr. Alfonso Jimenez, Director of Curriculum and Instruction, told the Weekly of Juarez's two-year-old program in a telephone interview afterward. Anything beyond that, he relayed, would be the purview of the Superintendent. At the meeting, Wagner simply listened and offered nothing in response to that particular question.
“If they're not going to give us answers” one parent said turning from the microphone towards the crowd, “what are we doing sitting here? Explaining the same thing as yesterday?” She suggested to the others that they take their case elsewhere to someone who would would listen to what they have to say.
At one point, Superintendent Wagner did offer a response to an inquiry. “A decision has been made,” she said in regards to the principal transfer. “We will be talking about the input we received. We will be discussing this decision.” The offering did little to satisfy the concerns of those gathered.
Surely things were less acrimonious when the new Superintendent, just weeks into her gig, appeared before a meeting of the Los Amigos 'breakfast club' in April at Jagerhaus Restaurant headed by Anaheim City School District trustee (and Weekly Scariest Person) Jose Moreno. A source informs us she was given the 'rockstar' treatment there. Over at Juarez, things couldn't be any rockier!
Follow Gabriel San Román on Twitter @dpalabraz